Mention “Panama” and the first thing most people think of is the canal. The second thing is David Lee Roth screaming/singing Paaanamaaaaa! in the 1984 Van Halen song. And that’s about it… unless you get a history buff who knows a little bit about pirate lore.
But Panama is much more than a canal and a song title,
Panama is a booming city with soaring skyscrapers towering for miles along its coastline. It’s also rich with history and archelology, and was critical in the battles between Spain and England along the Spanish Main. And when it comes to outdoor adventure, Panama’s got it, from lush tropical rain forests, to mountains, to miles of ocean.
So here are 11 pretty good reasons to hop on a plane for the short flight to Panama City:
1. At par with world-class cities
Panama is considered an international hub for banking and commerce. Therefore, you won’t have problems looking for high-speed internet service and mobile phone services. The structures of the buildings are really good, considering that Americans used to occupy a portion of the country. It won’t come as a surprise if the Northern American culture is embedded in this Caribbean paradise.
2. Wide array of tourist activities
Panama is a fusion of both North and South American cultures. This means that the place is filled with historical landmarks aside from modern facilities. As a tourist, you get to explore these places and know the history as well.
3. The best Caribbean beaches
Panama has several hundred islands where you can visit and have the best vacation of your life. There are a lot of Caribbean beaches where you can just sit back, relax and soak up the sun. Famous world-class resorts such as Banana Village, Coronado and Contadora are all located here. In fact, several travel channels always mention the beaches in Panama as some of the world’s best. Come and see for yourself.
4. The best place for ornithologists and birdwatchers
Birdwatchers and ornithologists everywhere will definitely have the time of their lives here in Panama. These people can always go to the Pipeline Road, located just half an hour away from the main city. There they can see about 400 species of birds flying peacefully.
5. Beaches Just an Hour from Downtown
Since the isthmus at its narrowest point is only 60 miles wide, driving an hour north or west of the city will present you with an array of Pacific or Caribbean beaches: surfing beaches, swimming beaches, beaches with cliffs cascading down to the sea. Spend a day in the sea and arrive home in time to watch the sun cast its glow on El Casco from the wrap-around windows of your fabulously chic hotel room.
6. Guaranteed satisfaction on water-related activities
Panama has about five islands that are popular for diving and snorkeling. These are world-class in standard, so you will definitely learn from very qualified instructors once you embark on this adventure. A few of the great water activity locations are: Isla Grande, Coiba Island, Bocas del Toro, and the Pearl Islands. Aside from the aforementioned places, you can also do your own fishing during your leisure time. There’s nothing more peaceful than spending a quiet time with nature.
7. Get to visit indigenous tribes
There are about six indigenous tribes residing in Panama. These tribes have been featured on major networks such as National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Definitely, you will get to see them in person and maybe get to know their culture as well. The good thing is, these tribes are really friendly to visitors and are happy to share their culture and their way of living.
8. The Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo
The famed American architect, who is married to a Panamanian, outdid himself with his first project in Latin America, a museum that showcases the isthmus's natural treasures and remarkable flora and fauna. The design was a gift from Gehry to the city and the exterior of the 43,000-square foot space is even more jaw-dropping than the Bilbao Guggenheim: its roof consists of brightly colored aluminum panels meant to represent flags blowing in the wind. Though its opening has been pushed forward, one can book a semi-private tour of the site and, with a very small group, visit this architectural gem before it is open to the public.
9. The history
A small country with a big story to tell, Panama was once under water, separating the Americas. A land bridge now, in more ways than one. Yes, it connects North and South America but it was also the bridge used by the Spanish to transport gold from Peru to Spain. See the ruins of the 1st city (Panama Viejo) and walk the streets of Casco Viejo built in the 1600′s. Learn about famous pirates like Henry Morgan and see the forts they attacked. For a century 1/3 of the worlds gold passed through Panama and you can walk through the jungle on the original trail! You may also have heard of the Panama Canal. Visit through the famous Miraflores Locks and museum or experience them on a day cruise. Check out barefootpanama.com for City tours, Jungle tours and more.
10. The culture.
7 Indian tribes still remain in Panama. Visit the Wounaan within an hours drive from modern Panama City. Go up river for a night with the Embera. Throughout the country you will see Guaymis influence. Deep in the jungle/national park shared with Costa Rica you will find the Bribri and friendly Teribe (Naso). The ultimate experience is still Kuna Yala. With almost 400 coconut clad islands, white sand beaches, crystal clear Caribbean water for snorkeling, small cabins for a more intimate setting (vs. big hotels), this is the place to visit.. for culture of course.
11. The adventure
Panama is a playground for adventure. Snorkel/dive in some of the most amazing places on earth, Caribbean and Pacific! Catch a wave on one of the many famous or unknown beaches. Sail, kayak or enjoy any water sport off the 2000 miles of coast or around some of the 2000 islands. Hike jungle trails that take you back in time, along a volcanic crater or to the top of a mountain over 11,000ft to catch the sun rise and a view of both oceans! Raft and /or kayak the class 1-class 4 rivers. Try one of the 3 zip line/canopy tours. But for the truly adventurous.. experience the nightlife out on Panama City’s ‘Calle Uruguay!!Barefoot Panama’s extended tours explore the mountains, islands, and everything in between while providing you with the opportunity for any adventure you choose.
- Beautiful islands and reefs- The cultural and historical capital, Chitre- Watching birds and impressive waterfalls in El Valle- The colonial district of Casco Viejo in panama City
Panama is located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica. By 1999, Panama controlled the Panama Canal that links the North Atlantic Ocean via the Caribbean Sea with the North Pacific Ocean. A nearly impenetrable jungle forms the gap between Panama and Colombia. It creates a break in the Pan-American Highway, which otherwise forms a complete road from Alaska to Patagonia.
Spanish is the official and dominant language; English is also recognized as an official language and is spoken widely on the Caribbean coast and by many in business and professional fields.
The currency used in Panama is the Panamenian Balboa. One Dollar is about 1 Panamenian Balboas.
Days are hot, nights much cooler; temperatures range from 32 °C (90 °F) during the daytime to 21 °C (70 °F) in the evening practically year-round. The rainy season takes place between October and November, and the best months to visit are mid-December and late March.
Panama has a rich tradition in the culinary arts. Due to its location, the country is home to a vast array of fresh and tasty fruits, herbs and vegetables. Combine this with influences from the Native Indians, Europeans and other Latin American countries and you have some great food in Panama. Some interesting dishes are:Hojaldras: These are commonly referred to as Panamanian Doughnuts. Essentially there are dough that is deep fried and then covered with sugar on top. A sweet snack to start off your daySancocho: If you are looking for a typical dish, Sancocho could be it. Found everywhere in Panama Sancocho is a type of chicken soup. Depending on who is cooking it other ingrediants in the soup can vary
Panama was claimed by the Spanish in 1501. In the 17th century Panama became part of Gran Colombia, but in 1903, Panama broke with Colombia. Eleven years later, the mighty Panama Canal was opened. The different cultural that inhabited Panama left behind a remarkable cultural history.
The overwhelming majority of Panamanians are Roman Catholic, accounting for almost 80% of the population.
There are six different Indians Cultures in Panama and each one of them practices its very own typical customs. Each province of Panama has a varied Folklore reflected through its dances, music and cuisine. In the deeply catholic provinces of Cocle, Herrera and Los Santos churches are found on the main town square (Plaza) as was the Spanish tradition. Nata, one of the oldest colonial cities, boasts the oldest church of the American Continent. One of the yearly festive highlights is Carnival, celebrated throughout the country in the month of February.These provinces also have the greatest expression of folkloric traditions of the country, which can be found back in the Panamanian National Dress the Pollera, which is handmade. The Pollera with all it’s jewelry and ornaments makes a magnificent mixture that emphasizes the beauty of the Panamanian women.Another artisan center by excellence is the Valle de Anton (Anton Valley) with a handicrafts market where on Sundays all the craftmakers of the area gather to offer their pieces for reasonable prices to domestic and foreign tourists alike in a picturesque environment.
The most important native instruments are the mejoranera, a five-stringed guitar used to play songs called mejoranas, as well as torrentes, and the rabel, a violin with three strings.Popular Panama folkloric music is generally called música típica or pindín, which since the 1940s has included instruments such as the guiro, conga and especially the accordion, among others. A folk dance called tamborito is very popular, danced by men and women in costumes.
Algae-covered sloths, tiny marmosets and night monkeys make their home in the canopy. If you want to see strange animals, the bushdog and the giant anteater can be found in Panama. Panama is home to many of the most-sought jewels on any birders list. Five species of macaws and a dozen and species of parrots, parakeets and parrotlets add more than just a visual treat, a lot of decibels to the jungle’s dawn symphony. Toucans, bell birds, umbrellabirds and motmots, and even the quetzal, mostly restricted to the cloud forest of Chiriqui, are other beautiful elements to enrich the country’s avifauna. Panama is fish heaven, from the small multicolored Killifish and dwarf armored catfish, inhabiting the fresh-water streams and lakes, to the monstrous black marlin off Hannibal Bank and Pinas Bay, Panama has it all.